Luntz’s Occupy advice

The Occupy protests seem to have captured the attention of one of the top Republican pollsters — and they’ve scared the hell out of him. Chris Moody has a terrific report on this today.

The Republican Governors Association met this week in Florida to give GOP state executives a chance to rejuvenate, strategize and team-build. But during a plenary session on Wednesday, one question kept coming up: How can Republicans do a better job of talking about Occupy Wall Street?

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation’s foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

As is his wont, Luntz provided Republicans with a series of carefully-crafted rhetorical suggestions in order to help manipulate audiences. For example, “waste” and “government spending” are apparently supposed to be interchangeable. Calls for “sacrifice” and “compromise” are easily misunderstood. Voters don’t believe Republicans are defending the middle class, so GOP officials should instead talk about “hardworking taxpayers.” And Americans are supposed to be told that government “takes from the rich,” not “taxes the rich,” because taxing the rich is popular.

That last point was of particular interest, because Republicans, polls to the contrary notwithstanding, like to pretend that asking more from the very wealthy isn’t popular at all.

And as Greg Sargent noted, that suggests Luntz’s research includes “a pretty striking concession.”

This longtime GOP pollster, adviser, and messaging expert is admitting that the Dem push for tax hikes on the rich has Republicans on the defensive, and that Republicans need to come up with a better way of obscuring what Dems are trying to achieve on the issue. He’s also admitting that the public isn’t inclined to believe Republicans represent the interests of the middle class.

No wonder Republicans are so worried they’re losing the message war over jobs and the economy — they are losing.